In my late teens as alcohol and sexuality became interwoven into my life I began to utilize a coping mechanism for dealing with social anxiety. Hindsight being 20/20, I now realize that what I was doing was inducing hypomania. Back then I had given it a name as it represented a collection of desirable characteristics. This is the kind of thing that actually gives bipolars a bad reputation and lends credibility to ridiculous myths about multiple personalities. I didn’t have another personality, I was still me, still conscious and cognizant, though at times it felt like I was a passenger along for the ride. I called this “alter-ego” Jack McBastard. He could do things that I definitely could not. The funny thing being that he was me. I was him. Nothing had changed in the slightest, I had just engaged my hypomanic fit and rode the wave. I was the weapon, I aimed at the target and fired Jack Mcbastard like ammunition at my desires. Then I just strapped myself in and watched it happen. This is the “life of the party” symptom that you’ll hear about, mine had a name. It was eerily similar to the concept of Jim Carrey’s character in “The Mask”. Up to and including the inability to take it off.
Wednesday night and you can’t convince the boys to come out for a session of binge drinking Dysphorian, old chum? Jack would whisper in my ear. No worries, I’ve got this and now inexplicably you are sitting at a table full of girls that you didn’t even say hello to. How about that? And that is an accurate description of how events would play out. I would watch myself walk over to a table of attractive women who are obviously on a “girls night” with no intention of having anything to do with men. Jack would sit right down in the first empty chair, or grab one from a nearby table. Of course the women wouldn’t react at first. The audacity of this manoeuvre was essential to it’s success, so next you really pour it on. You look at the lady across from you and before she can react you calmly and politely say: “Excuse me miss, could you please stop staring at me? It’s making me really uncomfortable.”
I wish I could tell you that an average looking guy like me got beaten up by bouncers a lot. I wish I could tell you that this only worked fifteen percent of the time, tops. But no. No, this actually had a ubiquitous success rate. I mean, I might not sleep with one of these women, but I was going to be their mascot for the rest of the night. There is nothing better for a presentable young man than having three to five attractive women already showing interest in him. Also, they become natural wing-women. They think you are sweet and harmless, goofy, spontaneous and fun and this opens doors. Also, best ladies night ever. The women would talk about this night for years. I did this a few times, still know women that I met this way, we are friends on facebook. Being my actual friend takes significantly more effort as you will see.
We can talk about Jack another time, I think I will likely do a whole post on him. Remember this isn’t multiple personalities, this is like a poorly grafted frankenpersonality. My regular self, Dysphorian is actually really bland and mostly hollow. He is morally sound and believes in justice. He wants to help people, protect them. He has few hobbies and a quiet little life. Dr. Jekyll. Ever roiling in the back of his mind are the Mr. Hyde desires. The hypomanic tendencies. The binge drinking, the drug abuse, the womanizing and the spending. They are one and the same, they just haven’t reconciled their differences yet. I had been controlling that part of myself quite nicely until the zoloft. It seems that without Jack, Dysphorian withers. My depressions broaden and become more unbearable. Because both are and developmentally have been my personality I cannot live without at least some of both of them, yet they are polar and at odds with one another (bipolar, duh!). Poorly grafted frankenpersonality…
I was telling my new therapist this. I explained these behaviour patterns before I quit my medication, because as we now know I was BPII. Antidepressants are like steroids and speed for hypomanic behaviour. They have the exact opposite desired effect. Full destabilization. Even anonymously I have a hard time admitting to the things that I was involved in around this time, so I won’t. It was bad. Some of it was illegal. Nobody got hurt, nobody died, so please don’t worry. It was pretty intense and I would rather not talk about it for fear that I put my face and name to this one day. You can guess, but keep it to yourself because I will deny everything even the truth. My new therapist was more worried about checking off little boxes on a sheet of paper in order to get me passably functioning at normal capacity. Which as I have just said was so far from the reality of the situation. I am so glad that I quit my meds on my own, I might be dead right now. I went to see my attending physician. I told her I was off meds. She was a little upset especially when I wasn’t comfortable telling her why. Then she did the greatest thing that has happened since this whole mess started. She made me an appointment with a medications consultant.
The greatest doctor of all time. This guy started in the mid seventies. A few years before I was born. You might think, an old guy and psychology? Isn’t his thinking going to be a little outdated? You would think, but no. This guy was a pioneer. He worked on the research and construction of some of the first lamps ever built to test their effects on SAD. He was originally a chemist, one of his first jobs was brewing up large batches of LSD for his ivy league college to test on schizophrenics and for various other researching purposes. This guy was old but also well versed and state of the art. A real gem. I entered his office and he as we were making introductions he pulled up my case file by computer (sent by my doctor). He took a glance at it, no more than a few seconds.
“So, it’s been almost seven months and you quit the zoloft a month and a half ago, why is that?”
“I was much worse when I was on it.”
Then he did the best thing any doctor could have done, he personally assessed me right there on the spot, rather than having me fill out one of those huge sheets that asks you the same twenty questions with twenty different phrasings.
You don’t sleep too well do you? Four maybe five hours a night, since my late teens.
You get bored easily? They thought I was ADHD in school and just passed me along until high school and I dropped out.
College? First year for art, didn’t make it to second year.
Creative, of course. Intelligent. But you never had a job for more than three years am I right? N-n-no, how did you…?
Never had a relationship last for more than two? No…
Find yourself alone and lonely a lot? Yes.
Angry because you don’t know why? Yeah!
Because you see, you are the life of the party, charming and fun to be around, so you get frustrated that nobody seems to care about you. You have a load of friends of facebook but nobody writes, nobody calls.
By this point I was blown away. It carried on, he was concisely describing my personality, my habits, my traits, my flaws and my behaviours. Eventually he was winding down, this whole thing took no more than 5 or so minutes. He concluded with something to the effect of: “…and you know why?” No. “Because you are bipolar, and it sounds like you have hypomanic episodes so I am going to guess you are type two, the zoloft was a terrible drug for you, great for unipolar depressives, poor choice for you.”
And just like that I had met the saint of medications. As I obviously can’t use his real name here I guess I will call him Dr. Saint, why the heck not? He gave me new meds, plural. Instead of SSRI antidepressants I should be taking medications in the NDRI range if not general mood stabilizers. But for the positive side effects including keeping a sharp mind and having energy he started me on wellbutrin. While classified as an “antidepressant” its mechanism of action effects the dopamine reuptake rather than the serotonin which for BPII I am told is an important difference. However, I am on a trial with this medication and should it not work, as meds frequently don’t, we have the gamut of mood stabilizer options after that, his goal was to try the ones with the most positive and/or beneficial side effects first. Not only did this guy understand my illness, see it immediately and know how to treat it, he was putting me on the best possible track from the word go. Then as he handed me my prescriptions he said, “I also wrote down the title of two books that you are going to buy, because for you I think therapy hasn’t been so good. You can get them on amazon.”
The books were “Why am I still Depressed?” by Dr. Jim Phelps and “Shadow Syndromes” by Dr. John Ratey and Dr. Catherine Johnson.
Both were brilliant, I highly recommend them to anyone with BPII, maybe not perfect for you BPI types, but still full of useful information. The first of these books is more specific to BPII and I consider it a roadmap to navigating the rocky terrain that is this disorder. I would have been lost without it.
Here we are, all caught up to the present. I feel okay for the most part but the grim neutrality and numbness is pervasive. I still feel fairly depressed most days. There was something that I was curious about asking of other BPII or even BPI types. How do you react to death? Because for my entire life it has had no effect on me. I have a really strange comfort with the passing of life into death and it has never caused me any grief. I have yet to be upset by the death of another and I don’t know if that is just me or part of the disorder. I’m not a sociopath, they ruled that out early on. Death just has no emotional value for me.
Coming soon, that all too handy robotic chart of symptoms and which ones apply to me and to what degree. Also, a look inside Jack Mcbastard and debauched tales of his exploits. How a man with a poorly grafted personality builds interpersonal relationships when half of him is thinking about having sex with every woman in her family, the girl next door, the lady at the tanning salon and necking a bottle of Finlandia. Especially when the woman you are with is viewed more and more as an enemy standing in your way of doing these things. These and probably so much more.